The Lord of the Rings trilogy is one of the most foolhardy and formidable efforts in modern cinema. A game-changing nine and a half hours that set the precedent for the 21st-century blockbuster.
Photography on the trilogy was overseen by the late Andrew Lesnie, hot off his second Babe project with fellow Aussie George Miller. Lesnie’s work has a painterly quality to it. It’s flush with compositional confidence that unites nine camera units across three films. Much like the titular fellowship, the trilogy works because of a group effort.
Lesnie’s contribution was capturing both the intimacy and grandeur of Middle Earth, an all too important balancing act to tell a story this big and this human. It’s no small feat: to give attention to individual moments in one frame and to pan out to the big picture in the next. To capture personal heartbreak and military upset with equal care. To ground and guide us as we whip across the open plains, craggy hilltops, and lush forests of Middle Earth.
Much like Howard Shore’s leitmotifs or the delicate regional stitches of Ngila Dickson’s costume work, Lesnie’s cinematography is tremendously rich with a sense of place and feeling. It transports us, there and back again. To testify to this fact, we’ve selected 50 of the most beautiful shots from the trilogy. We pulled primarily from the theatrical cuts but made sure to note when the Blu-ray releases were consulted (look for the asterisk). And with that, fly you fools: enjoy the shots!
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
Cinematography by Andrew Lesnie
Directed by Peter Jackson